The Thin Tweed Line
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Francis Bacon; a politician, scientist, and philosopher; he is influential in everything he did. Bacon is known for many works, one being The Advancement of Learning, which outlines his plans for a better education system. Bacon created methods, like the scientific method because he believed in a research-based learning system. Francis Bacon is influential in the current university education system because of his revolutionary ideas, being that students need to learn dynamically rather than scholastically.

Scholastic learning is static, it is what is already known; there is no research or questioning, it is what it is. Dynamic learning takes place when students question and research, which advances their learning; they have to prove what is instead of accepting it at face value, through this true learning occurs (Jackson, 2012). This is Bacon’s method, and part of his theory. One can tell, through Bacon’s life, that he is frustrated with the learning system of his time, and set out to change it (Anderson 1962).

Bacon is upset with the university system in his time, he often comments on the inadequacies of the university before he presents ways to change it. F.H. Anderson, a Baconian expert, expresses to readers Bacon’s unhappiness in the scholastic system in his book Francis Bacon: His Career and Thoughts: “His (Bacon’s) attack is directed in the main against the Universities which, the author (Bacon) says, are not reservoirs of truth, but a house of relics” (Anderson 1962). Bacon believes the way that the university teaches is static.

(Bacon’s) condemnation of antiquity, though not extreme, is quite apparent. His chief objection to the Greeks was that they relied more on reason than on direct observation of nature. The ancients, he says, took experiments upon credit and built on great matters upon them; knowledge derived from them is talkative, not generative, and full of controversies rather than work, and contentions rather than fruit (Jones 1968).

He speaks of the Greeks, because in his time, the Greeks were the source of learning. They started the concepts of free education and their findings were recorded and taught for generations. There is no questioning of the ancients, or research to see if they were correct. Bacon is upset by this, because learning was becoming outdated, and not producing new works. He also believes that science has been put on a back burner. He says that, “In the course of learning, since the days of the Greeks, natural science has been given the least attention of any part of philosophy…never since has science possessed a man whole…(and) at present, it receives only casual recognition in the Universities, and that by raw wits in passage to professional studies” (Anderson, 1962). Bacon believes that since the Greeks, education has fallen. Anderson says that Bacon believes, “Inquirers must again become like little children and approach nature with wonder and awe, and without prejudice. Through experience and induction, they can learn its alphabet” (Anderson, 1962). Bacon wants the way students and citizens learn to be by research and experience, not by being told. In The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, written by F.H. Anderson, Anderson says,

Bacon stresses several errors which have been made by those of the past and present (teachers, institutions) who ‘have descended and applied themselves to experience and attempted to induce knowledge upon particulars.’ First, he says they have not had sufficient resolution and strength of mind to free themselves from the theoretical ‘anticipations’ of nature, either from those received in tradition or from those which present themselves to the mind after a short period of observation and experiment (Anderson 1975).

Bacon wants reform in the institutions of education. “The dissatisfaction which Bacon felt over the state of learning in his own day was of great importance. Insisting that men overestimate their store of knowledge, he points out that the evil of their believing that all truth had been discovered, an attitude which was as ‘pillars of fate’ set in the way of silence” (Jones 1968). Bacon did not only complain about the institutions however, he writes works on how to fix them and progress the education system.

Bacon writes several works on how to change the institution of learning, the greatest work being The Advancement of Learning. It was this book “that originated a reform of the aim and adequacy of all the science, including ‘ethics, politics, and economics.’ It is Bacon’s New Organon that set forth the method of experience” (Faulkner 1993). This work, along with several others (New Organon for example) outlines Bacon’s plans for a new education system. In The Advancement of Learning, Bacon first writes to King James, pleading with him to read the work, and change the way his kingdom learned.

He hopes, as a result of its publication, to summon to his aid both his sovereign and others of prominence in state, church, and institutions of learning. He uses English (instead of Latin), not to announce a new era of knowledge to the ‘common people’-a concept he despises-in opposition to the learned, but to enlist a particular ruler, a particular court, churchmen of his own country and authorities of English Universities in the reform of old learning and the inauguration of a new science and a new invention (Anderson 1975).

Bacon believes that by writing this work, and pleading with the citizens of the extreme upper-class, he would make a movement, a revolution, in the policies of education. “He wants a new sort of foundation in which natural knowledge will be begun and increased in stature and use through continuous and widespread observation and experiment” (Anderson 1975). Bacon believes in dynamic learning. He wants people to experiment and question for their own education experience rather than be spoon-fed information to memorize. R.F. Jones, a scholar who writes of Bacon says, “Bacon’s ideas concerning the reformation of learning fall roughly into three groups: the recognition of the inadequacy of existing knowledge, and the need and possibility of its advancement; the hindrances that prevented this advancement and the means by which it (learning) might be secured” (Jones 1968).

Francis Bacon believes that the knowledge the human race had acquired was insufficient, and by recognizing that fact, people could advance learning, if not, learning would be hindered and insecure. If learning was to not advance, scholars today would still be stuck in ancient Greek philosophy, math would not be what it is today, and neither would science or the arts. Scholars did as Bacon said, they recognized that the knowledge around was inadequate, and scholastic learning would keep it that way. Faulkner says, “There is no doubt that Bacon is devising new forms of induction, and of theory-building, the new logic of which he was so proud…the new logic is for useful knowledge, and the use shapes the logic..He is innovating as to experimentation analysis and generalization” (Faulkner 1993). Faulkner sees that Bacon’s new steps toward better education and learning involve experiments, logic, and gaining useful knowledge using these two concepts. Bacon’s reforms “involves a transformation of the human world that extends to all experiencing and reasoning and it can seem total” (Faulkner 1993). Faulkner believes Bacon knows experience and reasoning would change the system of education. Bacon is right, the knowledge humans have would increase ten-fold when experimentation and questioning take shape. Boundaries need to be pushed to have this happen; Bacon wants dynamic learning to take place because humans have only ever learned scholastically. “Bacon says that action requires fixing the boundaries of the arts and sciences, he here makes it clear that such fixed boundaries inhibit the progressive ascent from the sciences of philosophia prima (first philosophy)” (Faulkner 1993).

Bacon wholly believes that scholasticism is hurting the educational process of the human race. Dynamic learning HAS to take place for Bacon. He believes that society will crumble and not advance if humans continue to learn that way. Bacon wants students to experiment and experience. He wants them to learn from logic and reasoning, not just prior philosophers’ works. He wrote The Advancement of Learning and New Organon as a guidebook on how to create a dynamic learning environment and system.

Francis Bacon writes his major works on how to advance society through education. In his books he outlines his complaints, yet he also outlines his plans for progress and how to attain the level of dynamic learning that he is after. The majority of the progress Bacon talks about has to do with knowledge and the mind, experiments, and classifications. James Stephens, author of Francis Bacon and the Style of Science says that Bacon believes “neither man nor his style should be the primary object of the audience’s concentration because ‘doctrines should be such as should make men fall in love with the lesson and not with the teacher’…” (Stephens 1975). Bacon wants men to understand that learning is for them, and that they should be in love with the learning process, not the teacher and teaching process. Bacon believes that men would love to learn if they could find their own knowledge. He believes that the “art (experimentation) encourages the mind of man to regard itself as the measure of things, when, actually, ‘the mind itself is but an accident to knowledge, for knowledge is a double of that which is. A crying need of learning, then, is for a new sort of methods, an induction to logic, which will control the understanding and bring it into functional relation with the universe’” (Anderson 1975). Bacon urges experimentation and logic to be used in education so that students can create their own sets and methods.

Bacon subordinates sense-experience to method, while actually holding natural ‘sense’ as the ‘greatest hindrance’ to reliable knowing. Bacon’s method is not empirical, but experimental…His chief reform is not, as is often supposed, a return to induction, but what he himself calls the ‘greatest change,’ the invention of a new ‘form of induction.’ His is not just experiencing, but planned experiencing, and it shows something of the radical significance of Baconian planning (Faulkner 1993).

He creates a new form of methodology. He believes that men should experiment, and for themselves, not by the experiments of others. Francis Bacon wants men to learn of their own accord, with instructors, not teachers. He wants people to plan their experiences, so they can see the logic and induction that go into the learning process, thus creating a knowledge all their own. “Bacon’s reform of style and method for philosophical writing has two general purposes: to shift the emphasis in theory from the author and his manner to the content of discourse; and to provide a method of delivery which is both unpretentious and somewhat veiled” (Stephens 1975). Stephens is validating what Bacon wants in the new educational system; men to shift their thoughts from the man writing the works to the content.

If man focuses on the content, they will gain a better knowledge because there is no bias toward authorship. Anderson also says, “the second part of the instauration is given over to a new method. This method differs from the old logic in the end, order of new demonstration, and point of departure. Its aim is the invention not of arguments, but of arts, not bringing of two things into agreement with principles and definitions already assumed by the inquirer but the discovery of axioms which conform to nature’s operations” (Anderson 1962). Bacon is all about people learning dynamically. Pushing the boundaries and not accepting what is said to be true, but physically finding out for themselves if what is said is true. Bacon outlines a process to create a dynamic learning system. People have to follow his methods to increase knowledge and learning. His work is incredibly influential, because without it, experimentation and planned experiences would have never been brought into a university or school system. Bacon’s influence in the educational society, however, is controversial.

Some people do not believe that Francis Bacon is influential. Bacon has many people who doubt his actual contribution to learning. Anderson comments that, “Bacons rights to be called a significant thinker has been a subject of an intermittent controversy which is perhaps without parallel in the history of learned discussion and the one into which, it must be admitted, both national and racial prejudices have entered. Admirers would make him-what no man could possibly be-the founder of modern science and the inventor of experimental induction, Detractors would have called him an exponent of feeble thoughts and the declaimer in resourceful language of philosophical commonplaces” (Anderson, 1975). As seen, Bacon talks of a new method on how to change learning into discovering through experimentation. To call him the father of modern science may be a stretch, but to call him an exponent of feeble thoughts would be just as much a stretch.

Faulkner says of the doubter that there are “two contentions (that) chiefly account for the lingering depreciation of Bacon’s work: it is said to be unimportant scientifically, and it is said to be derivative philosophy. According to those criticisms, Bacon’s reform of method prescribes mere fact gathering and is, in any event, irrelevant in the development of sophisticated mathematical science; his broad views are not much more than reformulations of the Christian tradition or perhaps of Greek philosophy” (Faulkner 1993). Bacon, may have just created reformulations, however those reformulations cause revolution in the learning system. Bacon is all about discovery versus learning, experimentation rather than note taking. If no one had written these reformulations down, we would not have modern science. Bacon reforms the learning system from scholastic to dynamic, no one can doubt that. Jones, a Baconian scholar, said that, “Bacon helped establish an essential attitude of the new science, for scientific progress depended primarily upon a favorable out-come in the controversy between the moderns and the upholders of antiquity in which science was, and continued to be the central use until the end of the (seventeenth) century” (Jones, 1968). Jones knew that Bacon’s work is incredibly important, whether people want to believe it or not. People may doubt Bacon because he “was a new beginning-like Socrates in bringing ‘philosophy down to the world’-his work simply betrays worldly preoccupation with the worldly is merely ‘empirical’ and lacks attention to the ‘universal’” (Faulkner 1993). Bacon’s ideas are new, and a reformation of what already was. His influence, no doubt, is important, and the doubters and unbelievers have little proof as to why Francis Bacon is not an influential person when it comes to advancing learning.

Francis Bacon is an innovator and a leader in the revolution of learning. His works, The Advancement of Learning, and New Organon, outline how learning should be changed. He creates the scientific method that scientists, professors, and even school children use today. Bacon changes the system from scholastic to dynamic. He urges students to question, to experience and experiment. He wants society to learn for their own knowledgeable benefit and not solely from the knowledge of others. Bacon creates change in the education society, and without him, the education system used today would not be the same.





Francis Bacon: Influence in Learning


Page Author: LeAnn J. Williams

Saturday, 11-Feb-2012 14:19



Anderson, Fulton H. Francis Bacon: His Career and His Thought. [Los Angeles]: Univ. of Southern Calif., 1962. Print.

Anderson, F. H. The Philsophy of Francis Bacon. New York: Octagon, 1975. Print.

Bacon, Francis. The Advancement of Learnin. MobileReference, 2012. Print.

Faulkner, Robert K. Francis Bacon and the Project of Progress. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993. Print.

Jackson, Steve N. "The Thin Tweed Line: The Riseof Literacy." DHC 261: The University. Black Hall 151, Ellensburg, WA.Jan. 2012. Lecture.

Jones, R. F. "The Bacon of the Seventeenth Century." Essential Articles for the Study of Francis Bacon. By Brian Vickers. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1968. Print.

Stephens, James. Francis Bacon and the Style of Science. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1975. Print.

Weinberger, Jerry, and Francis Bacon. Science, Faith, and Politics : Francis Bacon and the Utopian Roots of the Modern Age: A Commentary on Bacon's "Advancement of Learning" Ithaca [etc.: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.


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